Archive for the ‘Saints of the 1980s’ Category

Feast of James E. Walsh (April 30)   Leave a comment

Above:  Father Walsh, 1918

Image in the Public Domain

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JAMES EDWARD WALSH (APRIL 30, 1891-JULY 29, 1981)

Roman Catholic Missionary Bishop in China, and Political Prisoner

Also known as Wha Lee Son, Chinese for “Pillar of Truth”

Bishop James Edward Walsh spent about twelve years of a twenty-year sentence in a Chinese prison for Christ.  After a year and a half of daily interrogations, Chinese officials got Walsh to confess to being what he was not–a spy.  He was, however, guilty of being a Western missionary; that was his actual offense, in the eyes of Chinese Communist officialdom.

Walsh, born in Cumberland, Maryland, on April 30, 1891, came from a devout Roman Catholic family.  He, the second of nine children of William E. Walsh and Mary Concannon Walsh, was a mischievous parochial school student who grew up to become a missionary priest.  Our saint, after spending two years working as a timekeeper in a steel mill, found spiritual fulfillment at age 21 by accepting his vocation to the priesthood.  The family supported his decision enthusiastically.

Walsh’s vocation was to be a missionary priest.  In 1912 he joined the new Maryknoll Fathers, properly the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, and began to prepare for the priesthood.  On December 7, 1915, our saint became the second Maryknoll priest.  Not quite three years later, on September 8, 1918, Walsh and a few other priests sailed for Kwong Tung, China.  There he remained until 1936.  After about a year our saint became the Maryknoll Superior in China.  On May 22, 1927, Walsh, or as many Chinese Roman Catholics called him, Wha Lee Son (“Pillar of Truth”), became a bishop, assigned to the Vicariate of Kongmoon.  He told his missioners:

I am the least among you.  Look upon me as your servant.  I am made bishop chiefly to help you.  If my help takes the form of direction, I hope you will realize it is intended to help you just the same.  But I think we understand each other; we are a happy family.

From 1936 to 1946 Walsh served as the second Superior General of the Maryknoll order.  During those years our saint, back at Maryknoll headquarters at Ossining, New York, supervised the beginning of Maryknoll missions in Africa and Latin America.

Then Walsh returned to China, where he remained until 1970.  Until 1951, when the People’s Republic (an oxymoron) closed it, he led the Catholic Central Bureau (in Shanghai), which coordinated all Roman Catholic missions in the nation-state.  Life became more complicated for all Western missionaries in China after the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949.  Communist hostility to missionaries was one issue; official Chinese hostility to Westerners (especially considering the history of China during the build up to 1949) was another factor.  The central government harassed Western missionaries and pressured them to leave.  Walsh became the last one to go, at the age of 79.  For years he refused to go, despite the harassment, including surveillance.  Before his arrest and incarceration he said:

To put up with a little inconvenience at my age is nothing.  Besides, I am a little sick and tired of being pushed around on account of my religion.

Authorities arrested Walsh on October 18, 1958.  The verdict was never is doubt.  The sentence was 20 years.  He served about 12 of those, studying a Chinese dictionary and praying the rosary.  This, our saint understood, was as much of a witness to Christ as he could make at that time.  Walsh, who was fond of the Chinese people, managed to survive his incarceration without nursing resentment; he was actually quite forgiving.  During those years his only non-Chinese visitor was a brother, William C. Walsh, the Attorney General of Maryland from 1938 to 1945.  In a diplomatic gesture building up President Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972, the People’s Republic freed Walsh on July 10, 1970.  On that day he walked into freedom and Hong Kong.

After an audience with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican, Walsh returned to Maryknoll headquarters at Ossining, New York.  There he was a revered figure and a humble and prayerful man who insisted that he had done nothing worthy of any special recognition.  Walsh stated that he had simply been a servant of Christ and a missionary priest who had done his job faithfully.  Missionaries, he said, should remain with the people to whom God had sent them as long as that is possible.  He was not the first missionary to suffer for following that ethic.  Indeed, others, including some whom Walsh knew, had died doing so.  And Walsh was not the last Christian missionary to suffer for remaining with the people to whom God had sent him.

Walsh died, aged 90 years, of natural causes on July 29, 1981.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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God of grace and glory, we praise you for your servant James Edward Walsh,

who made the good news known in China, and who spent time in prison for doing so.

Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds of the gospel,

so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of your love,

and be drawn to worship you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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Feast of Jaroslav Vajda (April 28)   1 comment

Above:  Jaroslav Vajda

Image Source = hymntime.com

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JAROSLAV JAN VAJDA (APRIL 28, 1919-MAY 10, 2008)

U.S. Lutheran Minister, Hymn Translator, and Hymn Writer

Jaroslav Vajda was a hymn writer who, in his words, sought to

raise the level of wonder and appreciation of God’s awesome creation, justification, and sanctification.

–Quoted in Paul Westermeyer, With Tongues of Fire:  Profiles in 20th-Century Hymn Writing (St. Louis, MO:  Concordia Publishing House, 1995), page 153

Vajda grew up in the old Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church (1902-1971), later renamed the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and , since 1971, the SELC District of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.  Our saint, born in Lorain, Ohio, on April 28, 1919, was a son of a minister.  Vajda studied in Racine, Wisconsin; and East Chicago, Indiana; before attending Concordia Junior College, Fort Wayne, Indiana (Class of 1938); and Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri (B.A., 1941; M.Div., 1944).  He interned at Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church, Central City, Pennsylvania.  Our saint was an intellectually active person interested in Slovak culture and language, as evidenced by his thesis, a history of Jiri Tranovsky‘s Cithara Sanctorum (1636), or Harp of the Saints, a hymnal containing 414 texts.  As a young man he had mastered the Slovak language, completing his first translation from Slovak at the age of 21 years.  He was also a talented poet in the English language.  Vadja began to compose poetry at the age of 18 years.  At that age, when he submitted some poems to The Cresset, a literary magazine of the Missouri Synod, he received positive and encouraging feedback.

Vajda was a minister and a married man.  In 1945 he married Louise Mastaglio of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the couple went on to have four children.  Our saint served on the parish, denominational, and ecumenical levels.  The congregations he served were:

  1. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Cranesville, Pennsylvania (1945-1949), a bilingual Slovak-English congregation, as pastor;
  2. Our Blessed Savior Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Pennsylvania (1949-1953), as pastor;
  3. St. John’s Lutheran Church, Brackenridge, Pennsylvania (1953-1963), a bilingual Slovak-English congregation, as pastor; and
  4. St. Lucas Lutheran Church, St. Louis, Missouri (1963-1976), as assistant pastor.

Beyond the parish level Vadja edited The Lutheran Beacon, of the Slovak Evangelical Lutheran Church, from 1959 to 1963; edited This Day, a family magazine of the Missouri Synod, from 1963 to 1971; served on the Missouri Synod’s Commission on Worship from 1960 to 1978; served on the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship from 1967 to 1978, and therefore helped to create the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978); served on the committee that created the Worship Supplement (1969); and edited and developed books for Concordia Publishing House from 1971 until 1986, when he retired.

Vajda translated hymns of Jiri Tranovsky (1592-1637), the Luther of the Slavs and the Father of Slovak Hymnody, from Slovak and composed many original hymns.  The oldest translation by our saint of a text from Tranovsky I have found dates to 1960.  Vajda, by his own accounts, wrote his first hymn in 1968, at the age of 49 years, and composed most of his texts after he retired, at the age of 67 years, in 1986.  Our saint’s contributions to hymnody were numerous and impressive, numbering 225.  (Aside:  Concordia Publishing House sells Sing Peace, Sing Gift of Peace:  The Comprehensive Hymnary of Jaroslav J. Vajda.)  Paul Westermeyer, in With Tongues of Fire (1995), listed 179 hymn titles alphabetically.  Not surprisingly, the greatest concentrations of Vajda’s hymns, apart from dedicated volumes, have been in Lutheran hymnals, given the confessional Lutheran theology in the texts.  My survey of hymnals and hymnal supplements of the main two Lutheran denominations in the United States has yielded the following counts of hymns by our saint:

  1. Worship Supplement (1969)–4,
  2. Lutheran Book of Worship (1978)–9,
  3. Lutheran Worship (1982)-5,
  4. With One Voice (1995)–3,
  5. Hymnal Supplement 98 (1998)–7,
  6. Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)–6, and
  7. Lutheran Service Book (2006)–10.

Vajda, a longtime member of the Hymn Society of America, became a fellow of that organization in 1988.

Vajda, the recipient of many honorary doctorates, was a cultured man.  He studied Slovak Lutheran hymnody extensively.  He even wrote the article “Slovak Hymnody” for the excellent Hymnal Companion to the Lutheran Book of Worship (1981), a fine reference work and one of the best of the hymnal companion volumes.  Our saint also played the violin and translated works from Slovak into English.  Aside from hymns by Tranovksy, Vajda translated Bloody Sonnets (1950), Slovak Christmas (1960), Janko Kral (1972), An Anthology of Slovak Literature (1976), and an operatic libretto, Zuzanka Hraskovia (1978).  Original writings, aside from hymns, included They Followed the King (1963), Follow the King (1977), and Men and Women of the Bible:  45 Meditations on Biblical Heroes of the Faith (1996).

Vajda died, aged 89 years, at Webster Groves, Ohio, on May 10, 2008.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 19, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT POEMEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT JOHN THE DWARF AND ARSENIUS THE GREAT; ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE AUTPERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN PLESSINGTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Jaroslav Jan Vajda and others, who have composed and translated hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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Feast of Marion MacDonald Kelleran (April 20)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Flag of The Episcopal Church

Image in the Public Domain

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MARION MACDONALD KELLERAN (APRIL 20, 1905-JUNE 27, 1985)

Episcopal Seminary Professor and Lay Leader

A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016), of The Episcopal Church, includes a list of

people worthy of commemoration who do not quality under the “reasonable passage of time” guideline.

–Page A3

One of those people is Marion MacDonald Kelleran.  I understand why the denomination uses the “reasonable passage of time” guideline, but I, as the creator and proprietor of the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, do not feel bound by the official policy.

Kelleran was a prominent laywoman and an advocate for the ordination of women.  Marion MacDonald, born in Byng Inlst, Parry Sound District, Ontario, on April 20, 1905, was daughter of William G. MacDonald (1867-1955) and Ida Jane Boutyette MacDonald (1877-1955).  Our saint received her B.A. degree from the University of Buffalo in 1926 then engaged in graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary (New York, New York), Harvard University, and Episcopal Divinity School.  In 1934 she married Harold C. Kelleran (died in 1946), an Episcopal priest.  From 1946 to 1962 she served as the Director of Christian Education in the Diocese of Washington.  Then, from 1962 to 1973, she taught at Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia.  She started as Associate Professor of Christian Education and retired as the Chair of Pastoral Theology.  Kelleran, who served on the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church, became a founding member of the Anglican Consultative Council in 1970 and served as the Chair of that council from 1973 to 1980.  In that capacity she was the only woman present at the Lambeth Conference in 1978.

Kelleran, from 1963 until her death a parishioner at Immanuel-on-the-Hill, Alexandria, died, aged 80 years, at Alexandria on June 27, 1985.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Marion MacDonald Kelleran,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Andre, Magda, and Daniel Trocme (April 12)   Leave a comment

Above:  France, 1941

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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DANIEL TROCMÉ (APRIL 28, 1912-APRIL 6, 1944)

French Educator, Humanitarian, and Martyr

nephew of

ANDRÉ TROCMÉ (APRIL 7, 1901-JUNE 5, 1971)

French Reformed Minister and Humanitarian

husband of

MAGDA TROCMÉ (NOVEMBER 2, 1902-OCTOBER 10, 1996)

French Humanitarian

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RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

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You have to think like a hero merely to behave like a decent human being.

–Bartholomew Scott Blair in The Russia House (1990)

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Only to your fathers was YHWH attached, to love them, so he chose their seed after them,

you, above all (other) peoples,

as (is) this (very) day.

So circumcise the foreskin of your heart,

your neck you are not to keep-hard anymore;

for YHWH your God,

he is the God of gods and the Lord of lords,

the God great, powerful, and awe-inspiring,

he who lifts up no face (in favor) and takes no bribe,

providing justice (for) orphan and widow,

loving the sojourner, by giving him food and clothing.

So you are to love the sojourner,

for sojourners were you in the land of Egypt;

YHWH your God, you are to hold-in-awe,

him you are to serve,

to him you are to cling,

by his name you are to swear!

–Deuteronomy 19:15-20, Translated by Everett Fox (1995)

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It is very dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.

–Voltaire

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Robert Ellsberg, in All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), lists April 7 as the feast of André Trocmé.  One could, I suppose, also choose April 6, April 28, June 5, October 10, or November 2, if one were restricting oneself to birth and death dates.  However, on this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, April 12 works fine.

Being a merely decent human being can be difficult and mortally perilous.  Those who behave as decent people during such circumstances are moral giants.

André Trocmé, born in Saint-Quentin-en-Tourment, France, on April 7, 1901, identified with the downtrodden and understood the Biblical mandate to care for them.  He, of Huguenot (properly pronounced U-guh-NO; the “t” and “s” are silent) stock, knew the history of the persecution of French Calvinists.  André had also been a poor refugee during World War I.  He studied theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, where Henry Sloane Coffin taught and, in 1926, became the president of the institution.  In New York City André met and fell in love with Magda Grilli, Italian-born yet of Russian ancestry.  Members of her family had resisted authority in both Italy and Russia.  The couple married in 1925.

In 1934 André became the pastor in the Huguenot village of Le Chambon-sur-Vignon, or Le Chambon, for short.  He, Magda, and their children settled in the town, whose population went on in just a few years to commit great and unfortunately rare acts of morality and heroism.  For Pastor Trocmé  the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ was to live according to the ethical standards of the Sermon on the Mount–to love God and one’s neighbors.  He also emphasized the portion of Deuteronomy I have quoted at the beginning of this post.  He was also a pacifist.

Pacifism, of course, does not necessarily mean surrender to injustice.  No, it means resisting injustice by nonviolent means.  This is a fact that some of the college students to whom I teach U.S. history fail to grasp.  I recall, for example, one pupil who, even after I corrected him in writing, insisted on describing Quakers as “passive-aggressive,” not pacifistic.

Above:  A Portion of Southern France

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The location of Le Chambon-sur-Vignon is slightly to the southeast of Yssingeau, in Haute-Loire.

The inhabitants of Le Chambon were neither passive nor aggressive.  No, they were Christian and merely decent.  In 1940, after the Third Reich took over France, the German government established a puppet state (the French State, in English), commonly called Vichy France.  The rest of France fell under direct German rule.  Le Chambon fell within the borders of Vichy France.  The Trocmés resisted the ultranationalism of the French State.  Resisting authority came naturally to them, especially Magda.

So did sheltering refugees.  As I have written, André had been one.  Also, Magda had worked in a camp for refugees from Francisco Franco’s Spanish Christian Fascists (Falangists, technically), officially neutral during World War II yet sympathetic to the Nazis.  Starting in 1940, with the help of the American Friends Service Committee, the Trocmés led the village in resisting the laws of the Third Reich and of Vichy France while obeying the laws of God.  Le Chambon and the neighboring farms became centers for sheltering Jews, many of them illegal aliens.  In 1942 the order to deport French Jews took effect.  The body count of that order exceeded 83,000.  In Paris alone, in the summer of 1942, the number of deported Jews was about 28,000.  Over years, however, the villagers of Le Chambon, led by the Trocmés, sheltered and saved no fewer than 2,500 Jews–perhaps as many as 5,000.  Vichy and Nazi authorities noticed yet never could capture any Jews there.  A doctor who forged documents died in a concentration camp.  Starting in early 1942 André had to go on the run, so Magda, who had helped him lead the village’s efforts, performed more duties.  There were, after all, documents to forge and deliveries of food and clothing to make.

The villagers of Le Chambon did not consider their actions in sheltering Jews remarkable.  This was an expression of their faith, after all.  Those actions were, however, relatively rare in France during World War II.  They also met with the disapproval of the leader of André’s denomination.

Daniel Trocmé, born on April 28, 1912, was André’s nephew.  Daniel, a science teacher and a compassionate man, had fragile health, including a heart condition.  He taught at Masion Les Roches, a Huguenot boarding school, in Verneuil.  In 1941 he accepted his uncle’s invitation to become the principal of Les Grillons, the boarding school for Jewish children at Le Chambon founded by the American Friends Service Committee.  Daniel was a kind and conscientious educator.  Eventually he left to assume the leadership of Maison Les Roches.  There Daniel sheltered Jewish youth.  Agents of the Gestaop raided the school on June 29, 1943.  Our saint did not flee the authorities, who detained him, along with 18 pupils.  He did not deny sheltering Jews.  No, Daniel told the agents that sheltering Jews was the morally correct action.  He spent the rest of his brief life as a prisoner, dying, aged 31 years, at Maidanek Concentration Camp, Lublin, Poland, on April 6, 1944.

André continued to live out his faith after the liberation of France.  He served as the European secretary of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.  And, during the Algerian War, our saint cooperated with Mennonites to help French conscientious objectors.  He died, aged 70 years, at Geneva, Switzerland, on June 5, 1971.

Magda died, aged 91 years, in Paris on October 10, 1996.  She lived long enough to witness the villagers, her husband, Daniel, and herself recognized formally as Righteous Gentiles.

Some of the passages of scripture that trouble me the most are those that counsel submission to authority–especially, in historical context, that of the Roman Empire.  Although freedom cannot exist amid anarchy, there are times when defying “legitimate” political authority is the only morally correct course of action.  This is a nuance I do not detect in the germane New Testament passages.

The Trocmés understood that nuance well, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUIS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served,

and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Henry Sloane Coffin and William Sloane Coffin, Jr. (April 12)   3 comments

Above:  Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, 1910

Photograph copyrighted by Irving Underhill

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-74646

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HENRY SLOANE COFFIN (JANUARY 5, 1877-NOVEMBER 25, 1954)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Theologian, and Hymn Translator

uncle of

WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, JR. (JUNE 1, 1924-APRIL 12, 2006)

U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Social Activist

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A FAMILY STORY

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If there is one characteristic more than others that contemporary public worship needs to recapture, it is the awe before the surpassing great and gracious God.

–Henry Sloane Coffin

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God is to me that creative force, behind and in the universal, who manifests Himself as energy, as life, as order, as beauty, as thought, as conscience, as love.

–Henry Sloane Coffin

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There are three kinds of patriots, two bad, one good.  The bad ones are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics.  Good patriots carry on a lover’s quarrel with their country, a reflection of God’s lover’s quarrel with all the world.

–William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

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It is one thing to say with the prophet Amos, “Let justice roll down like mighty waters,” and quite another to work out the irrigation system.

–William Sloane Coffin, Jr.

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With this post I replace two former posts with which I had become dissatisfied.  By telling the stories of Henry Sloane Coffin and William Sloane Coffin, Jr., together I also emphasize connections and relationships, one of my purposes in renovating my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  The Coffins, uncle and nephew, were prophetic figures who incurred much condemnation by fundamentalist Christians during their lifetimes.

Both Coffins continue to incur much condemnation by fundamentalist Christians, as a simple Internet search reveals.

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Above:  Henry Sloane Coffin

Image in the Public Domain

Henry Sloane Coffin, born in New York City on January 5, 1877, came from a prominent family.  The family firm, W. & J. Sloane, sold upscale furniture and rugs.  It also became involved in real estate development and in low-income housing.  Attorney Edmund Coffin, Jr., and Euphemia Coffin had two especially noteworthy sons–Henry Sloane Coffin and William Sloane Coffin, Sr.  The latter of these men worked in the family firm, joined the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Modern Art in 1924, and became the board’s president seven years later.

Above:  William Sloane Coffin, Sr. (1879-1933)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-25374

Henry grew up in New York City, in the lap of privilege and a corresponding sense of social responsibility.  He studied at Yale, became a Bonesman, and graduated in 1897.  Next our saint studied theology at New College, Edinburgh, Scotland, for two years before returning to the United States and working successfully on two concurrent degree programs–Bachelor of Divinity (Union Theological Seminary, 1900) and Master of Arts (Yale, 1900).

Above:  Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, New York

Image creator and copyright holder = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a11085

Henry was a Presbyterian minister.  He, ordained in the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1900, served as pastor of Bedford Park Presbyterian Church, the Bronx, until 1905, when he transferred to Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York City.  Our saint, a conscientious pastor and visitor in parishioners’ homes, built up Madison Avenue Church from a struggling congregation to one of the largest in the city during his tenure, which ended in 1926.  Starting in 1904 Henry doubled as a part-time Associate Professor of Homiletics and Practical Theology at Union Theological Seminary.  Finally he accepted an offer to become the President of the seminary in 1926.  “Uncle Harry,” as students called him, guided the seminary financially through the Great Depression and hired Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich.  Among Henry’s greatest accomplishments was helping to avoid a schism (related to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy) in his denomination in the middle 1920s.  A minor schism, creating what became the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, occurred in 1936, but no major split occurred in the 1920s.

William Sloane Coffin, Jr., born in New York City on June 1, 1924, was a son of William Sloane Coffin, Sr., and Catherine Butterfield Coffin.  Our saint, known informally as Bill, lost his father in 1933.  The family fortune had declined, and William Sr. had refused to evict low-income tenants who could not afford rent.  Catherine took her family into exile in Carmel, California, where they moved into a bungalow and the children attended public schools.  In 1937 Uncle Harry began to finance the educations of Bill and his younger sister.  Bill began to study at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts and Catherine left California.  The following year Catherine took Bill to Europe, where he studied classical piano–first in Paris, with Nadia Boulanger, then in Geneva–until June 1940, when World War II forced their return to the United States.

Henry, who received many honorary degrees, was prominent on the Christian and world stage.  His image graced the cover of the November 15, 1926, issue of Time magazine.  Our saint was also active in ecumenism, working successfully for the creation of the World Council of Churches (1948) and unsuccessfully in the 1940s for the merger of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and The Episcopal Church, then officially the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A.   Uncle Harry also worked with former U.S. President Herbert Hoover to send provisions to the United Kingdom prior to December 8, 1941, and supported U.S. involvement in World War II.

Bill Coffin went to war.  He graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts, in 1942, began studies at Yale Music School, then received his military draft notice in 1943.  For fur years he served in the U.S. Army, ending up in military intelligence.  Next our saint returned to Yale, joined the Skull and Bones Society (of which friend and classmate George Herbert Walker Bush was also a member), and graduated in 1949.  The Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) recruited Coffin at Yale, but he initially chose theology instead.  In 1949 he matriculated at Union Theological Seminary yet left for the C.I.A. the following year, shortly after the beginning of the Korean War.  At the C.I.A. Coffin taught Soviet émigrés the arts of spycraft.  Our saint left the agency over Eisenhower-era C.I.A. coups against democratically elected governments, however.  He graduated from Yale Divinity School, became a Presbyterian minister, and married actress Eva Rubenstein in 1956.

Uncle Harry retired from Union Theological Seminary in 1945 then toured the Orient and studied missionary work there.  He died, aged 77 years, on November 25, 1954, at Salisbury, Connecticut.  His wife, Dorothy Prentice Eells (married in 1906; died in 1983) and two children (Ruth and David) survived him.

Henry translated hymn stanzas and wrote books.  In 1916 he translated the following stanza of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”:

O come, Desire of nations, bind

All peoples in one heart and mind;

Bid envy, strife, and discord cease;

Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

In 1910, in Hymns of the Kingdom of God, which Henry co-edited, he included the following stanza of “God Himself is With Us”:

Thou pervadest all things:

Let thy radiant beauty

Light mine eyes to see my duty.

As the tender flowers

Eagerly unfold them,

To the sunlight calmly hold them,

So let me quietly

In thy rays imbue me;

Let thy light shine through me.

Our saint’s books included the following:

  1. The Creed of Jesus and Other Sermons (1907),
  2. Social Aspects of the Cross (1911),
  3. University Sermons (1911),
  4. The Christian and the Church (1912),
  5. Some Christian Convictions:  A Practical Restatement in Terms of Present-Day Thinking (1915),
  6. The Ten Commandments:  With a Christian Application to the Present Conditions (1915),
  7. In a Day of Social Rebuilding:  Lectures on the Ministry of the Church (1918),
  8. A More Christian Industrial Order (1920),
  9. Portraits of Jesus Christ (1926),
  10. What is There in Religion? (1926),
  11. What to Preach (1926),
  12. The Meaning of the Cross (1931),
  13. What Men Are Asking (1933),
  14. God’s Turn:  A Collection of Sermons (1934),
  15. Religion Yesterday and Today (1940), and
  16. A Half-Century of Union Theological Seminary, 1896-1945 (1954).

William Sloane Coffin, Jr., became a social activist. Unfortunately, stresses associated with his quest for social justice ended his first two marriages (in 1968 and 1975).  In 1956-1957 our saint filled the one-year appointment as chaplain at Phillips Academy. In 1957 he became the chaplain at Williams College.  There our saint’s support for civil rights (especially in relation to the events in Little Rock, Arkansas) and criticism of fraternities created controversy.  One fraternity brother went so far as to shoot out Coffin’s living room window in anger.  From 1958 to 1975 our saint served as the chaplain at Yale University.  At Yale Coffin became involved in the Freedom Rides in the South, opposed the Vietnam War, and supported young men who refused to cooperate with the military draft.  For his nonviolent anti-draft activities Coffin faced federal charges, went on trial, and became a convict.  Later an appeals court overturned the conviction and the government dropped the charges.

To oppose government-sponsored violence nonviolently can place one is legal jeopardy, unfortunately.

Coffin served as the senior pastor of The Riverside Church, New York City, from 1977 to 1987.  He opposed Apartheid, lobbied for nuclear disarmament, and spoke out in favor of gay rights–when the latter was a marginal position, even on the Left.  He resigned in 1987 to work on the nuclear disarmament issue full-time.

Our saint was quite active during much of this retirement.  From 1989 to 1992 he led SANE/FREEZE, dedicated to disarmament and a freeze on atomic weapons.  Then he and third wife Virginia Randolph Wilson (married in 1984) moved to Vermont.  Coffin continued to travel and speak on a variety of topics, including his opposition to the Iraq War.  At the end of his life our saint suffered a series of strokes.  He died, surrounded by family, on April 12, 2006.  He was 81 years old.

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Henry Sloane Coffin and William Sloane Coffin faced different challenges.  Both of them responded to those issues in front of them in accordance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the prophets’ call to social justice, as they understood those high standards.  They were controversial in their times.  They were probably correct more often than not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, APOSTLE TO THE PYGMIES

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servants Henry Sloane Coffin and William Sloane Coffin, Jr.,

to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory f your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Howard Thurman (April 10)   Leave a comment

Above:  Howard Thurman

Image in the Public Domain

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HOWARD WASHINGTON THURMAN (NOVEMBER 18, 1899-APRIL 10, 1981)

U.S. Baptist Minister, Mystic, and Theologian

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The religion of Jesus makes the love-ethic central.

–Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (1949; 1996 reprint, page 89)

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Howard Thurman was an important force for social justice in the United States.  Although he was not on the front lines of the civil rights movement, he did produce a theology of reaching beyond fear and hatred that inspired many who were on the front lines.

Thurman, born on November 18, 1899, at Daytona, Florida, was a son of the church.  His father was Solomon Thurman (a railroad worker) and his mother was Alice Ambrose Thurman (a domestic worker).  Our saint learned much about the Bible from his maternal grandmother, a former slave.  Thurman, educated at Florida Baptist Academy, Jacksonville, Florida (1915-1919), then at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia (1919-1923), became a Baptist minister in 1925.  His first church as pastor was Zion Baptist Church, Oberlin, Ohio.  The following year our saint graduated from Rochester Theological Seminary.  Then Thurman continued his education at Oberlin School of Theology and Haverford College.  At the latter institution he learned from Rufus Jones (1863-1948), a prominent Quaker philosopher.  In 1929 Thurman became both a professor of religion and the director of religious life at both Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, Atlanta.  While in Atlanta he married Sue Bailey, in 1932.

From 1932 to 1943 Thurman served on the faculty of Howard University, D.C.  He, President Mordecai Johnson, and Dr. Benjamin Mays (the Dean of the School of Religion), provided leadership at that institution and beyond.  Thurman’s titles were Chairman of the Committee on Religious Life and Professor of Christian Theology.  Our saint worked behind the scenes with many of the early leaders of the civil rights movement.  These great men and women included W. E. B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and Mary McLeod Bethune.  During a tour of India in 1935 and 1936 Thurman met Mohandas Gandhi and became convinced of the wisdom of applying nonviolence to the struggle for civil rights in the United States.  Our saint also expanded his understanding of religious freedom with regard to human freedom and the struggle for it.

Thurman left Howard University in 1943 to co-found the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, San Francisco, California, an early example of a multicultural congregation in the United States.  His co-pastor was Alfred G. Fisk, who was white.   While in San Francisco, Thurman wrote Jesus and the Disinherited (1949), in which he laid the theological foundation for the use of nonviolence in the civil rights movement and portrayed Jesus as one who helped disinherited people as they dealt with oppression.  Black Liberation Theology, which James Cone went on to develop, grew out of this volume, a copy of which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., carried with him.

Our saint left San Francisco in 1953, when he accepted the job as Dean of the Marsh Chapel and Professor of Spiritual Disciplines and Resources at Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.  That year Life magazine described Thurman as one of the twelve greatest preachers of the twentieth century.  He applied that rhetorical skill at the Marsh Chapel until 1965, when he retired.

For the rest of his life our saint directed the Howard Thurman Educational Trust.

Thurman died at San Francisco on April 10, 1981.  He was 81 years old.

His message of nonviolent resistance to oppression is timeless, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, PATRIARCH OF AMERICAN LUTHERANISM; HIS GREAT-GRANDSON, WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGICAL PIONEER; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, ANNE AYRES, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERHOOD OF THE HOLY COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CRUGER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF RANDALL DAVIDSON, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.

Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.

Through us give hope to the hopeless,

love to the unloved,

peace to the troubled,

and rest to the weary,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Lydia Emilie Gruchy (April 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Lydia Emilie Gruchy and the Ministers who Ordained Her, 1936

Image in the Public Domain

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LYDIA EMILIE GRUCHY (SEPTEMBER 5, 1894-APRIL 9, 1992)

First Female Minister in the United Church of Canada

In 1936 Lydia Emilie Gruchy became the first woman ordained as a minister in the United Church of Canada.

Gruchy’s journey toward that recognized vocation started at Asnieres, France, where she debuted on September 5, 1894.  Our saint was the eighth of ten children.  Gruchy lost her mother to death when she was eight years old.  From then until 1913 our saint moved from one side of the Atlantic Ocean to the other in the company of various members of her immediate family.  She and two brothers (Arthur and Victor) were in Saskatchewan together before she and her sisters attended a boarding school in Seaford, England, starting in 1905.  Our saint took a business course in London and worked as a civil servant for a year before she and sisters Florence, Hilda, and Elsie moved to Saskatchewan in 1913.  There Gruchy completed high school, worked as a housekeeper for a year, and trained to become a teacher.  From 1915 to 1923 she taught recent immigrants in one-room schools.  Along the way Gruchy earned her B.A. degree (University of Saskatchewan, 1920), received the Governor-General’s Gold Medal for academic excellence and leadership (1920), and studied theology at Presbyterian College (later St. Andrew’s College), Saskatoon (1920-1923).

Meanwhile, World War I affected Gruchy.  Brothers Arthur and Bert died in the war.  Another brother, Stanley, suffered injuries.

Our saint perceived a vocation to become an ordained minister.  In 1923 she applied to become a Presbyterian minister; the synod turned her down.  For more than a decade Gruchy worked as a lay missionary.  From 1923 to 1927 she served as a missionary to the Doukhobors at Veregin, Saskatchewan.  Meanwhile, in 1926, the Kamsack Presbytery and the Saskatchewan Conference of the new United Church of Canda (created via a merger the previous year) petitioned the denomination to ordain her.  The question of ordaining women was a matter of official study from 1927 to 1931, however.  As the United Church studied Grouchy worked as a lay missionary in Wakaw, Saskatchewan.  Our saint took a sabbatical to Long Beach, California, in 1931-1932; she visited relatives there.  Then she served as a lay missionary to Kelvington, Saskatchewan, from 1932 to 1936.

The United Church of Canada was finally ready to ordain women in 1936.  So, on November 4, 1936, at St. Andrew’s United Church, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Grouchy became a reverend.  At first she assisted the senior minister at St. Andrew’s Church, Moose Jaw (1936-1938).  From 1938 to 1943 she was the secretary for the Committee on the Deaconess Order and Women Workers, Toronto.  Then our saint served as pastor at Simpson (1948-1952), Cupar (1952-1957), and Neville-Vanguard (1957-1962), all in Saskatchewan.  She also received her Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Andrew’s College, Saskatoon, in 1953.

Gruchy retired in 1962.  She and a sister relocated to White Rock, British Columbia, where our saint died, aged 97 years, on April 9, 1992.

Pioneers such as Lydia Emilie Gruchy have enriched the life of the institutional church and paved the way for other women to pursue their vocations from God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BLESSED OSCAR ROMERO AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Lydia Emilie Gruchy,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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